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Lot 528

1930 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton

  • Chassis no. 702514

Sold for $297,000


Series 452-A. 175 hp, 452 cu. in. V-16 engine with overhead valves, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and hydraulic dampers, ¾-floating rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148"

Cadillac stunned the fine car market at the New York Auto Show with the introduction of its breathtaking new sixteen-cylinder models. Spectators at the luxurious Astor Hotel were crowded elbow-to-elbow on January 4, 1930 when a crowd of some 20,000 spectators jostled to catch a glimpse of the new “Supercar.” With this single stroke, Cadillac instantly catapulted itself to the head of the luxury class. Until then, only Bugatti had produced a “U”-shaped 16-cylinder engine by bolting two eight-cylinder engines together, an innovation that was originally intended for aircraft use.

Cadillac’s V-16 was the first true 16-cylinder engine to be built from scratch, a project led by legendary engineer Owen Milton Nacker under conditions of the strictest secrecy. In order to avoid knowledge of the project leaking from lower-level GM engineering departments and parts suppliers, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign included cover stories and notes on various blueprints indicating that the project was actually Cadillac’s contribution to a GM bus or highway coach development project.

The resulting engine was extraordinary, designed concurrently with Cadillac’s own V-12 engine program with wide interchangeability of parts between them. Its 45-degree cylinder bank angle and overhead-valve cylinder head design kept the engine narrow, while the external manifolds allowed remarkable ease of access to the engine compartment. Furthermore, Cadillac’s V-16 was the first automotive engine ever to be “styled”; all the wiring was hidden behind conduits, and the engine compartment was dressed up with plenty of gleaming, polished aluminum, porcelain and a pair of beautiful valve covers with brushed aluminum ridged surfaces featuring the Cadillac emblem.

While the horsepower output of the V-16 engine was rated by Cadillac at “only” 175 horsepower, in truth it produced approximately 200 horsepower. Its mission, however, was not absolute performance and speed but rather to propel Cadillac’s massive chassis, which could accommodate a multitude of relatively heavy and luxurious custom coachbuilt bodies. With its peak torque output of 320 ft-lbs available at just 1,200 to 1,500 engine revolutions, the V-16 certainly achieved its design objectives.

The Cadillac V-16 was also incredibly smooth in operation, thanks in large part to its massive but well-balanced and tough forged crankshaft, well supported by five main bearings. Other special innovations included a silicon-aluminum crankcase, five-point engine mounts to reduce vibration, advanced overhead valve cylinder heads with the valvetrain actuated by pushrods and rocker arms, as well as carefully refined piston and piston ring designs. For ignition, the V-16 used a single distributor with two sets of breaker points controlled by two separate ignition coils.

In the face of a declining luxury market following “Black Tuesday,” Cadillac managed to survive and thrive, thanks to the strong financial support of its massive parent company, General Motors. Without this financial support, Cadillac could never have produced such a low-production, luxurious automobile for the elite car market. Although the cars were brilliantly designed and built, the rapidly shrinking Depression-era market meant that the V-16 was produced in tiny numbers for those few people who were capable of paying more than ten times the cost of a Chevrolet convertible. The few examples that remain today offer a rare glimpse into one of the most exciting automotive eras of all time.

The current owner acquired the stunning example we have the pleasure of offering here in early 2008. The prior California-based owner purchased it directly from Mr. Fred Weber during the mid-1980s. This V-16 is understood to have been assembled using an original chassis and engine, with new coachwork painstakingly built to exacting standards of authenticity. However, we are informed this particular example did indeed start life as a V-16, and while it is thought that it was also originally bodied as a Sport Phaeton, there are no records available to confirm this authoritatively.

It is fitted with all the correct and desirable period accessories, including chrome wire wheels with stainless-steel spokes and wide whitewall tires, Pilot Ray driving lights, a radiator stone guard, dual spotlights, dual side-mounted spare wheels and tires with matching covers, accessory mirrors, a rear-mounted metal luggage trunk and a correct Cadillac radiator mascot. The two-tone black and silver paint, which is beautifully complemented by the richly trimmed maroon leather interior, remains exquisite and shows little wear throughout.

Cadillac V-16s, the Sport Phaetons in particular, remain without doubt among the most desirable and sought-after of all prewar classics. This beautiful and correctly restored example is simply stunning, having been impeccably maintained for the past 20-plus years. It will surely delight its next owners as a great first-year example of Cadillac’s legendary V-16.

Addendum

Please note that this title is in transit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more